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Saraki Wades Into FG’s N2.4bn Debt Owed Scholars Abroad

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The Director in-charge of Scholarship at the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB), Fatima Ahmad has said that the sum of N2.4billion is owed Nigerian scholars abroad by the board due to inadequate or lack of budgetary provisions.
Ahmad said there was an outstanding scholarship allowance to the tune of N799.8 million in 2015 and 2016, out of which N444.2million has been paid, leaving a balance of N355.6million.
The director made the disclosure at a special meeting held between the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and representatives of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) responsible for the welfare of Nigerian students on scholarships abroad.
The students are now stranded due to non-payment of their living allowances and tuition fees by relevant government agencies.
The Senate in plenary had mandated Saraki to intervene and know why Nigerian students on scholarships in foreign countries were yet to be paid their scholarship funds.
Saraki at the meeting, last Wednesday, which was attended by the Senate leader, deputy Senate leader, chairman of Senate Committees on Tertiary Education and TETFUND and other senators directed the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB) to urgently present a comprehensive report of all Nigerian students on scholarship abroad and their outstanding entitlements to the relevant committees of the Senate to enable the Senate make appropriations for their settlement.
While saying that the Senate committees, after due consideration of the reports, would make recommendations to the Senate on how to clear the backlog through appropriation, he called for a comprehensive review of scholarship policies in the country so as to save the nation from future embarrassment.
According to Saraki, the meeting was called to enable the leadership of the Senate and heads of relevant agencies put heads together on a matter of pressing concern, which is the welfare of Nigerian students on scholarships who are stranded abroad due to the inability to fulfill the country’s responsibilities to the students, and meet their needs.
“As some of you may know, I was in Russia last month to participate at the 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), and I heard first-hand the plight of our students for whom the expected scholarship funding has dried up,” Saraki said.
“The overwhelming feeling on the part of these students is one of abandonment by their motherland.”
He said that the outstanding students’ allowances needed to be settled urgently to save them from untold hardship.
“This feeling of abandonment is one that we must move quickly to dissipate, by working urgently to alleviate the difficulties faced by these students,” Saraki stated.
“We must look for ways to re-establish the pipelines and remove the bottlenecks, so that our students who went abroad with the promise and assurance of scholarship funding, will get their stipends as and when due.”
He lamented that several brilliant Nigerian students on federal scholarships were languishing abroad due to the inability of the Federal Government to pay its counterpart funding of the scholarships awarded under bilateral agreements with foreign governments.
“Under the Bilateral Education Agreement (BEA) entered into by Nigeria and several foreign governments, some of the host countries have responsibility for part of the upkeep of Nigerian students – while Nigeria must necessarily fulfill her own part,” Saraki said.
“There is a need for the MDAs to look at our responsibility to our students in the different countries, and devise ways of making good on our part of such agreements.”
He added: “We must recognise that these students scattered that are currently in dire conditions all over the world, represent a sizable component of the future of Nigeria – her dreams of progress and development.
“This is another kind of brain drain. The worst part is, this is a brain drain that benefits no one, not even foreign countries. We are not even losing the best of these students to foreign lands – we are in danger of losing them, period. If we don’t rectify this situation – let me put it bluntly – we would be sacrificing their future; and that, is unthinkable.”
The Senate president directed the FSB to prepare a comprehensive report on the outstanding allowances and tuition and submit to the education committees to enable the Senate make provision for its settlement in the budget.
He, however, enjoined the FSB to imbibe the spirit of transparency and federal character in the award of all scholarships.

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FG Mulls Introduction Of Private Firefighters

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The Federal Government says it is proposing to broaden the scope of the National Fire Academy to accommodate private firefighters to address fire incidents across the country.
The plan, if carried out, would lead to the emergence of private firefighters in the country.
Speaking after his first official inspection tour of the academy, the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said the fire service could have certified private firefighters like the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps’ private guards.
He added that private firefighters were needed to enhance the fire service’s operations as well as improve their response time.
This was contained in a statement by the Minister’s Media Adviser, Alao Babatunde, yesterday.
The statement partly read, “Today, we have over 3 million private guards certified by the NSCDC. We can have something similar for the fire service. We need private fire service men to enhance our service and response time. The President’s #RenewedHope agenda has charged us to be innovative if we must change the narrative.
“As a matter of fact, this is another innovative way to generate revenue because we expect that anyone looking to become a safety or security guard should get trained and certified by this academy.”
Tunji-Ojo urged all institutions and recreation centres to engage certified fire and safety personnel trained by the academy when the plan materialises.
He said: “A lot has been done, but there is still a lot more to be done. With what I have seen here, I can guarantee you that we will work very hard to see that this facility will not only be useful in training officers of the fire service but also for the private sector.
“We must make fire safety a personal affair. Every institution, commercial and social recreation centre should have certified fire and safety personnel, trained by this facility.
“All public and commercial buildings and infrastructure such as banks, hotels, malls, restaurants, or even government buildings should have first responders that can administer basic fire fighting remedy while waiting for the arrival of a full operation squad of the country’s Fire Service”.

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Decentralise Pipeline Surveillance Contracts, Ondo Ex-Militants Urge Tinubu

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A group of ex-militants in Ondo State, on Wednesday, called on President Bola Tinubu to revisit the pipeline surveillance project and decentralise the awarding of the contract.
The group, under the auspices of the Ondo State Niger Delta Coastal Vanguard, said decentralisation of the contract would enhance the security of pipelines on waterways.
This was contained in a statement issued by the Public Relations Officer of the group, Chief Lucky Ajiroba.
The statement is titled, ‘Call on His Excellency President Bola Tinubu to re-visit the pipeline surveillance contract.’
The group faulted the last administration for awarding the contract to only one company, saying the purpose for which the contract was awarded was not achieved as the security situation of the pipelines was getting worse.
The statement read, “We are the members of Ondo State Niger Delta Coastal Vanguard. The group led by Akogun Job Omotuwa comprises ex-militants in the state who voluntarily submitted their arms and ammunition in response to the good gesture of the Federal Government of Nigeria under the amnesty programme in the year 2017, and we have shown our unwavering allegiance to the terms of the amnesty initiative of the government.
“The overall effects of all these are: it has increased considerably the quantum of oil production, it has substantially increased the revenue accruable to the Federation account, and ultimately it allows peaceful coexistence among the people of the oil-producing communities of the country.
“We are aware of the sterling enterprise of this administration to improve on the security architecture of the Nigeria state and all its apparatus, with a particular reference to the pipeline surveillance and secured waterways.
“The last administration made a giant stride by awarding the pipeline surveillance to a sole company in the Niger Delta Area. It is not out of place to state that the purpose upon which the contract was awarded for was not achieved as the situation of the security of the pipeline was worse than ever before since their collaborative effort was not enough to support the constituted military authorities.
“The failure of this was ascribed to the centralization of the contract. In view of this perennial failure, there has been avalanche of agitation from every quarter that the pipeline security contract should be decentralized for the purpose of achieving the desired goal of the Federal Government which is in the best interest of the entire citizens.”
The group, which commended the President for its efforts in repositioning the country’s economy, opined that each ex-militant leader in the Niger Delta Region be identified, and the pipeline security contract be split among them.

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Assembly Tasks Delta Govt On Rising Prostitution, Drug Abuse

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The Delta House of Assembly has passed a resolution urging the State Government to take drastic measures against rising cases of drug abuse and prostitution in the state.
This followed the adoption of a motion by Mrs Bridget Anyafulu (PDP-Oshimili South) at plenary in Asaba.
Presenting the motion, Anyafulu decried rising cases of open sex trade and use of illicit drugs among youths in the state, especially in Asaba and environs.
“Open sex trade and use of illicit drug is not a good example for our children.
“The situation is worrisome considering the fact that both issues are illegal,” she said.
Anyafulu, also the Chairman, House Committee on Women Affairs, Community and Social Development said that urgent measures must be taken to address the situation.
“The twin evil of drug abuse and sex trade represents great danger to the lives of our young people and the society at large.
“They both underline the physical, mental and social well-being of our young people and this will also jeopardize the development, peace and security of our dear state.
“So, I want to state that no nation survives without the youth, the youth and the young general are the life wire of our nation.
“Any nation that ignores the youth is heading for doom, so the importance of the young people cannot be over emphasized, it is therefore very important that we address this ugly trend,” she said.
Also speaking, Mr Oboro Preyor (PDP-Bomadi) decried the negative impact of rising drug abuse and prostitution, saying it must be addressed.
‘‘If this ugly trend is not addressed, it would attract more young people into their folks,’’ he said.
He also urged the government to rehabilitate youths who were addicted to drug and to create other avenues of engaging them in productive activities.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers when put to voice vote by Speaker Dennis Guwor.
The lawmakers also called for support from law enforcement agencies to ensure the arrest and prosecution of illicit drug dealers and commercial sex workers in accordance with the law in order to curb the rising trend.

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